"What if they are wrong?"

Mike Stopa

Mike Stopa, a physicist specialising in computation and nanoscience in the Physics Department at Harvard [cries of "not a climate scientist!" from the headbangers] writes at his blog:

Here I ask this. Suppose it turns out that CO2 has essentially nothing to do with the earth’s climate. How will the history of this colossal mistake be written?

They will say that a mechanism called the “greenhouse effect,” was postulated long ago (~1824 by Joseph Fourier) and gained adherents in the late 20th century. They will say that the theory was seemingly invalidated by the decrease in global temperatures from 1940-1975, but that the adherents patched this up by explaining the cooling with pollution, specifically sulfur, from industry

They will say that the theory was challenged by the noted vast gap between the amount of CO2 produced by civilization and the substantially smaller increase in CO2 in the atmosphere, but that the theory was patched up by examining the increased CO2 uptake by the hydrosphere and the biosphere.

They will say the theory was seemingly invalidated by the evidence that the atmosphere was already nearly opaque in the wavelengths that are absorbed by CO2 and so the additional CO2 could have, on its own, little effect, but that the theory was patched up by positing a feedback mechanism between the small temperature increases directly due to CO2 and the production of water vapor which is the main greenhouse gas.

They will note that the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) proceeded much like any scientific theory (cf. Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) in that it was modified and patched up and adjusted to fit empirical challenges until it finally collapsed altogether under the weight of incontrovertible evidence. But, the scientific historians will have a new phenomenon to consider, and that is the social and political context of this particular scientific theory.

Kuhn describes very well the build-up of evidence that ultimately leads to the over-turning of accepted orthodoxy within the scientific community, of some particular theory. But AGW is intrinsically wrapped up with political ideology and, increasingly, with economics and government (cf. “Solyndra”). The only apt comparison I can think of is Lysenkoism, the anti-genetics theory of Trofim Lysenko that was bought wholesale by Stalin and ultimately hobbled the entire Soviet biological establishment for generations (to say nothing of its role in leading to the starvation of people who followed its tenets in regard to things like agriculture).

Scientific revolutions are difficult and traumatic enough without the added inertia of government sponsorship. To put it more bluntly, scientists have difficulty enough admitting that they have egg on their faces. Throw in the Solyndras of the world and the United Nations and the entire anti-capitalist Global Left and the backing out of this theory will be nothing short of a fiasco.

If someone were, for instance, to come up with indisputable evidence tomorrow that CO2 has essentially no impact on earth’s climate, could the world accept it? With the development of frakking and the concomitant extension of carbon based energy resources hundreds of years into the future, what would they do with all the windmills?

Well, the truth of this issue should be apparent within about 15 years…at which point we may be allowed to buy incandescent light bulbs again. (source)

h/t Climate Depot

ACM Comment: Who are the "deniers" now?

Are both sides guilty of this?

In the global warming heyday, when the planet was (for a short time) warming according to the CO2-tweaked models, the consensus boys regularly accused anyone who dared question the attribution of that warming as “deniers”.

It was a simple and effective tactic to smear one’s opponents without having to employ a single brain cell. Rather than engage in proper scientific discourse, they would simply shout “the science is settled” and “we have to move on to find solutions”. Genuine concerns of scientists reviewing the data and its interpretation were brushed aside.

But now, as so many climate indicators show a divergence from model predictions (which Andrew Bolt discusses here), it’s the consensus boys who have flipped into denial mode, scrabbling to find any excuse to explain away the models’ failures. You only have to look at the stream of hysterical responses to the recent Wall Street Journal letter (see here) to see it plainly for yourself.

Dr Roy Spencer coined the phrase “natural climate cycle deniers” back in 2009 to highlight the fact that many in the consensus camp are blind to the possibility of natural influences swamping the anthropogenic signal.

But that is the inevitable result of climate scientists becoming politically, financially and emotionally associated with a particular outcome. Because the consensus boys have dug their heels in so firmly, with massive personal and emotional investment in their projections, it would be impossible for many of them to even acknowledge publicly that there may be more going on in the climate system than their models believe. We know from Climategate that many harbour secret doubts about the magnitude of man-made warming, but few are prepared to speak out.

Partly, this can be attributed to fear of upsetting the apple cart, losing government funding (heavily dependent on the consensus being maintained) or being ostracised from the scientific community in which they work. But also, it’s deeply embarrassing to admit one may have been wrong, especially when one has arrogantly played down any possibility of error or uncertainty in the past.

As a result, the debate has become highly polarised, with both sides taking up positions at the periphery, with a no-go zone in between. Very few people have successfully negotiated the last decade or so with their heads above the parapet in this area, especially with barrages of ammunition flying overhead in both directions.

But it’s this no-go zone which is precisely where impartial scientists should be: taking both sides of the evidence and considering them dispassionately, without the corrupting influence of politics or money. Until each side can put down their weapons, call a truce and engage in the middle ground, there will be no progress towards better understanding of the climate system.

This isn’t to say that sceptics don’t have motivations too – everybody does. But there certainly isn’t the financial and political motivations at work on the sceptic side that there are on the consensus side (if you’re struggling to work out what I mean, just think of these two letters: UN). Many sceptics only speak out after they have retired from a mainstream scientific career, in effect rejecting financial inducements to toe the party line on climate. And as for being an outspoken sceptic in modern politics, well, I’ll leave you to decide on that one!

Websites such as ACM take a position on the debate. Our’s (as I mentioned in a comment in an earlier post) is deep suspicion of the politically-motivated consensus. Until the political and financial distortions are removed from climate research, there will continue to be a need for sites like this to question the consensus position.

So what is the solution? Apart from the UN getting the hell out of climate science (which is a no-brainer), should there be equal or similar funding for “sceptic research” as some have suggested? The very idea that funding buys a particular outcome is, from a scientific point of view, appalling either way. And climate has become such a politically febrile issue in national governments that it will be almost impossible to remove political influences.

So, it’s over to you for some suggestions…

Quote of the Day: Brian Schmidt

Quote of the Day

The Nobel laureate Professor Brian Schmidt, announced today as the Australian of the Year, on science and politics:

Science should inform policy, but must not become politicised, he says. “On issues like climate change, coal-seam gas, water management in the Murray-Darling Basin and stem cells we have seen science and public policy get mixed together,” he said. “We have seen policymakers challenging science, which they are ill-equipped to do. It is important for scientists not to get involved in the policy debate because if we do that then we are tainting the scientific argument.” (source)

Schmidt’s has previously defended the AGW consensus (see here), and his comment about policymakers not challenging science would be more credible if the scientists in question possessed proper standards of scientific integrity.

Unfortunately, in climate science consensus circles, political and financial motivations have usurped impartial free-thinking research, so that inconvenient data and results, rather than being welcomed as illuminating a path to greater understanding, are suppressed, hidden and explained away in order to avoid clouding the “message”, or should I say “The Cause” (© Climategate II).

By the way, there should be no such thing as “a cause”, in the sense of a belief or conviction, in science. Such a concept belongs firmly in the realm of propaganda and politics.

Aussie Nobel laureate plugs alarmist line

Disappointing, yet again

I was very disappointed to read this article last night:

An Australian Nobel Laureate has urged climate-sceptic MPs to get a scientific opinion on global warming.

Astronomer Professor Brian Schmidt spoke during a visit to the Sydney Observatory on Wednesday. He was there with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to endorse a $2 million coalition pledge to restore a Howard government science in primary schools program which Labor axed.

The 2011 Nobel Prize winner for physics had words of advice for politicians who doubted the science of climate change.

“I would encourage anyone who has questions about climate change, especially in politics, to come and talk to the Australian Academy of Science,” the astronomer with the Australian National University told reporters.

“I accept that climate change is inevitable when you add Co2 to the atmosphere. I certainly believe it is something we have to worry about.” (source)

Apart from the fact that the Australian Academy of Science sold out to climate alarmism long ago, and that no-one disputes that adding CO2 will cause some warming, Schmidt seems to have little concern for the lack of integrity in the alarmist community, fails to appreciate the significance of Climategate, the corruption and political motivation of the IPCC, the conflicts of interest arising from massive government funding of alarmist research, or any of the myriad other serious concerns with the consensus science.

Wouldn’t it have been refreshing to hear someone like Schmidt uphold scientific integrity rather than plugging the usual politically correct alarmist line?

The irony of the story is that Schmidt’s fellow laureate in Chemistry, Dan Shechtman, challenged an established consensus, was mocked and ridiculed by his colleagues, but eventually proved correct.

The Cry grows quite stale and threadbare

Croxall's Fables

The Boy who cried Wolf. Or in this case, “the Boys” – the climate alarmists, the IPCC, the mainstream media (particularly Fairfax and the ABC), the university climate change departments, Flannery, Gillard, Combet, Rudd, Wong, and all the others who are guilty of barefaced and brazen exaggeration and scaremongering in respect of the dangers posed by man-made climate change.

So many times have we heard that it is the last chance to save the planet, it has lost any impact it may have once had. Year after year, the climate fails to follow the dire predictions, the rains still fall, the sun still shines, the planet is indeed still here, and so are we, healthier and, for the most part (EU excepted perhaps), wealthier.

What follows is a wonderful extract from a book of Aesop’s Fables by S Croxall, dated 1722:

“He that is detected for being a notorious Liar, besides the Ignominy and Reproach of the Thing, incurs this Mischief, that he will scarce be able to get any one to believe him again as long as he lives. However true our Complaint may be, or how much soever it may be for our Interest to have it believed, yet if we have been frequently caught tripping before, we should hardly be able to gain Credit to what we relate afterwards.

Though Mankind are generally stupid enough to be often imposed upon, yet few are so senseless as to believe a notorious Liar, or to trust a Cheat upon Record. These little Shams, when found out, are sufficiently prejudicial to the Interest of every private Person who practices them. But, when we are alarmed with imaginary Dangers in Respect of the Public, till the Cry grows quite stale and threadbare, how can it be expected we should know when to guard ourselves against real ones?”

What a glorious phrase: the Cry grows quite stale and threadbare, and how appropriate the extract above relates to the current debate on climate change.

Indeed, the climate alarmists have been “frequently caught tripping before”. We only have to take the briefest glance at the Climategate emails to see uncertainties downplayed, an agenda (or “The Cause” as it should now be referred to) bolstered and protected, and extreme measures taken to ensure The Message is consistent – or in other words, there is consensus. Mankind is certainly still stupid enough to be imposed upon frequently, but the point is near where the public will in future “resolve to take no notice of their alarm.”

And this is a huge problem. As has been discussed many times on this blog, the credibility of the climate science community, in particular the IPCC, is destroyed. No-one who has read even a small proportion of the Climategate emails can possibly take the word of the IPCC (or any of their associated alarmists) when the latest scare story is regurgitated by the mainstream media.

However, this situation will inevitably stifle proper scientific advancement. If a significant section (the majority?) of the climate science community is so tainted by the Ignominy and Reproach of so many failed predictions and hysterical warnings, on whom can policymakers rely to base their decisions? Politicians require such experts to guide their thinking, but so many organisations around the world have abandoned their impartial scientific principles to climb aboard the bandwagon of environmentalism that there are very few of them that remain unscathed.

And the bigger question is this: if at some point in the future, a particular branch of science was genuinely predicting impending catastrophe for the planet and its inhabitants – perhaps from a possible asteroid impact, a deadly virus, or a range of other threats – would we believe it? Would we, given the experience we have so far endured with climate science, be prepared to put our trust in the hands of those who tell us, We know best and we must act now? Would the public consent to such a course, “However true our Complaint may be”? Or would the wolf devour the sheep?

The Cry has indeed grown stale and threadbare. Trust once lost is never regained. The IPCC and the climate science community have lost that trust, squandering it and abandoning their scientific integrity in pursuit of politically correct environmental agenda supported by misrepresentation, bullying and spin. It will take an extraordinary effort to rebuild it again from scratch, and that’s no exaggeration.

NSW government "censored" inconvenient sea level data


A report on Channel 7’s news at 6pm this evening alleges that sea level data, showing rates of rise far lower than those projected, were censored to avoid conflicting with government policy on climate change.

Sea levels at Fort Denison are rising at only 1mm per year or less, flatly contradicting the apocalyptic projections of the state and federal governments. Doug Lord, a global warming believer and coastal manager at the climate change department until February 2010, said “Both papers were accepted and at the last minute both were withdrawn on instructions from the department.”

Angus Gordon, a coastal engineer, accused the department of a cover-up, and of suppressing the data in order to support the federal government’s position on climate change.

If the allegations are true, none of this should come as any surprise, especially after the release last week of Climategate 2.0. It is the modus operandi of governments and alarmist scientists the world over, namely to censor or suppress dissent, or in this case data, which contradicts their pre-conceived agenda of dangerous global warming, and thereby giving them the freedom they need to mislead the electorate into accepting draconian and extreme climate change policies.

There is little reason to doubt that these kinds of practices are commonplace, given the federal government’s desperation to convince the public of the “reality of climate change” and the need to take urgent action – hence the carbon tax.

Once again, the integrity of climate science and its associated disciplines has been tarnished by political motivations and politically correct environmental agendas.

[Note: as you will see from the YouTube clip, the report on 7 News was rather superficial - but typical for a network news bulletin - and contained significant ambiguities, in particular regarding the roles of the state/federal governments and the timeline of events, especially given the change of government in NSW earlier in the year. Hopefully further details will emerge.]

A lesson for climate scientists on "consensus"

Challenging a consensus

See any parallels?

When Israeli scientist Dan Shechtman claimed to have stumbled upon a new crystalline chemical structure that seemed to violate the laws of nature, colleagues mocked him, insulted him and exiled him from his research group.

After years in the scientific wilderness, though, he was proved right. And on Wednesday, he received the ultimate vindication: the Nobel Prize in chemistry.

The lesson?

“A good scientist is a humble and listening scientist and not one that is sure 100 percent in what he read in the textbooks,” Shechtman said.

The shy, 70-year-old Shechtman said he never doubted his findings and considered himself merely the latest in a long line of scientists who advanced their fields by challenging the conventional wisdom and were shunned by the establishment because of it.

Challenging conventional wisdom? Now there’s an idea.

Read it here.


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